Global dividends inched up just 0.1 per cent in 2016, dragged down by lack of growth in shareholder payouts from US companies and sharp downturns from the UK and Australia.
The figures released today as part of the Henderson Global Dividend Index found dividends around the world reached $1.154 trillion (£930bn) last year.
While US dividends still increased by 1.5 per cent on a headline growth basis, this was sharply down on the levels enjoyed in 2015 and 2014. Henderson blamed disappointing profit growth, renewed efforts on bolstering balance sheets and a weak performance in the energy sector for the falling levels of growth.
Meanwhile, in the UK, dividends fell by 3.5 per cent to $92.9bn, the lowest level recorded since 2012. In Australia, poor performance from the mining sector lead to a headline decline in dividends of 10.1 per cent.
"This demonstrates the importance of a global approach to income investing where investors can take advantage of attractive dividend growth opportunities wherever they occur in the world," said Alex Crooke, head of global equity income at Henderson Global Investors.
Henderson predicts dividends will grow 0.3 per cent on a headline basis in 2017.
Crooke added: "For the year ahead, the outlook for global economic growth appears brighter. With a new administration in the White House promising greater spending and tax cuts for business, corporate earnings in the US could benefit, even as they contend with the effects of the strong dollar. Business confidence across the Eurozone is rising too. Meanwhile, higher prices for oil and other commodities will lift profits for these dividend stalwarts, and allow payouts in these battered sectors to gradually be restored."